Timeless Al Hilal striker Odion Ighalo continues to press his case as a modern Roshn Saudi League great
Ahead of the Riyadh Derby, there was significant attention about Cristiano Ronaldo’s first appearance in the marquee fixture.
But in the end, it was another former Manchester United striker, Odion Ighalo, who grabbed both goals as Al Hilal defeated Al Nassr 2-0.
That brace took the Nigerian on to 18 for the Roshn Saudi League season so far, two clear of Ronaldo’s Al Nassr team mate Talisca and Abderrazak Hamdallah of league-leaders Al Ittihad.
It is no surprise as to what has happened given his form of late with 11 goals in 11 games in 2023. He has shown in England, Spain and China, as well as the international stage, that he is a proven goalscorer.
Ighalo arrived in January 2021, ending his loan at Manchester United and joining Al Shabab. He quickly then found the target 12 times for his new club and in the following January moved across Riyadh to join Al Hilal.
Few thought that the title was on but he then scored 12 goals in 13 games to help the Blues to domestic championship number 18. Those 24 goals overall were enough to give the 33 year-old the golden boot.
For any striker, that is a perfect season – top spot for the team and top spot for himself. Those twin triumphs are unlikely to happen this time around as Al Hilal are in fourth in the standings but as much as he loves finding the target, Ighalo is focused on team success.
“It does not matter that I am at the top of the scorers, but rather the most important thing for me is that my team wins its matches and makes Al Hilal fans happy,” he told SSC TV after the Al Nassr win..
One thing that stands out, apart from his composure in the final third, is that he scores all kinds of goals.
Ighalo can find space in a crowded six-yard box to tap the ball home. He can make space for himself a little further out and perhaps his signature strike is a low well-placed shot from the edge of the area, or just inside.
There is room for the spectacular too. His two goals against Al-Nassr were both very coolly slotted home from the spot but it was notable that,for the first, it was his overhead kick in the first half, that was completely unexpected, that resulted in a handball and a penalty – and the game changed.
In an era when there has been a move away from the traditional number nines, though that trend shows signs of reversing, Ighalo has shown the value of having a forward who guarantees goals.
Whether it is the spectacular or the six-yard tap-in, Ighalo’s coolness in and around the area means that Al Hilal always carry a threat in attack and always have a cutting edge.
Even when they are not at their fluid best, the champions are dangerous and can never be counted out.
The Nigerian is correct that team triumphs outrank personal accolades, but the two do go together.
If your striker is topping the goalscoring charts then you are always going to be in the running for trophies. The golden boot would be a fine consolation at potentially missing out on the league title and while Talisca and Hamdallah are going to have something to say about that, Ighalo is red-hot at the moment.